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Honey and pomegranate, two symbols of Rosh Hashanah. (Photo: Fotolia)
Honey and pomegranate, two symbols of Rosh Hashanah. (Photo: Fotolia)
Honey and pomegranate, two symbols of Rosh Hashanah. (Photo: Fotolia)

The English language has been the beneficiary of many Yiddish terms over the years, and thanks to a very healthy Jewish population in British cities—and the language’s deft ability to develop words that have no direct equivalency in English, such as shlep, shlub or mishegoss—a good many of them became firmly embedded into British culture.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t British slang equivalents to some of the best-known Yiddish terms and sayings, words that also capture a certain mood or emphasis. Here are 20 examples, some of which are approximate as slang is not science:

Chutzpah (n.)
Meaning: Guts or nerve.
British translation: brass neckfront.

• Mazel tov (salutation)
Meaning: good luck.
British translation: The best of British to you.

• Bupkis (pron.)
Meaning: nothing.
British translation: sod all, bugger all.

• Kosher (adj.)
Meaning: legitimate (derived from the term for food prepared according to Jewish law).
British translation: pukka.

Dreck (n.)
Meaning: ugly or worthless, from a term for feces.
British translation: cack.

Schmuck (n.)
Meaning: an idiot or swine, a real piece of work.
British translation: berk, pillock.

• Klutz (n.)
Meaning: a clumsy person.
British translation:  cackhanded (adj.)

Bobbemyseh (n.)
Meaning: old wives’ tales.
British translation: waffle, twaddle, a load of old guff.

• Shtup (v.)
Meaning: to have sex.
British translation: get your end away, get your leg over

• Kibbitz (v.)
Meaning: to exchange witticisms.
British translation: banter

• Mensch (n.)
Meaning: a person of fine character.
British translation: top bloke (or top bird), geezer.

• Schvitz (v.)
Meaning: to perspire.
British translation: sweating cobs.

• Verklempt
Meaning: overwhelmed with emotion, flustered, excited.
British translation: gobstruck, gobsmacked.

• Schmaltz (n.) 
Meaning: an excess of sentimentality.
British translation: soppiness.

• Meshuga (adj.)
Meaning: crazy, idiotic, neurotic.
British translation: barmy, off your trolley.

• Kvetch (v.)
Meaning: to complain annoyingly.
British translation: whinge.

• Schmutz (n.)
Meaning: dirt or grime.
British translation: gunge, grot, muck.

• Momzer (n.)
Meaning: a rogue or rotter, someone who is not to be trusted.
British translation: toerag, prat.

• Gonif (n.)
Meaning: thief or dishonest person.
British translation: tea-leaf, wrong ‘un. 

• Yenta (n.)
Meaning: a meddler or a gossip.
British translation: nosey parker.

Sources: Yiddish Dictionary, Daily Writing Tips

See more: 
20 Cornish Slang Terms That Require Translation
10 Old Slang Terms for Crimes that Don’t Happen Anymore
25 Scottish Sayings That Will Get You Through Life
25 Welsh Sayings To Live By

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Filed Under: Fraser's Phrases, Yiddish
By Fraser McAlpine